Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Susan Neves (in red) as the First Chorus [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of San Diego Opera]
05 Apr 2013

Murder in the Cathedral at San Diego Opera

Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968) wrote more than fifteen operas, of which almost none are staged today.

Murder in the Cathedral at San Diego Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Susan Neves (in red) as the First Chorus

Photos by Ken Howard courtesy of San Diego Opera

 

A member of the same generation as Ottorino Respighi and Gian Francesco Malipiero, he started out to be a playwright and had two works staged before he entered the conservatory of his native Parma to study music. Some years later, Pizzetti was a conservatory teacher and administrator, first in Florence and then in Milan. In 1936 he succeeded Respighi at the Academy of St. Cecilia in Rome where his students included Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Pizzetti was influenced by poet and playwright Gabriele d'Annunzio and he wrote incidental music for several of the latter’s plays. In 1939 Pizzetti was named to the Italian Royal Academy. Although his relations with the fascist government of Italy were occasionally stormy, they were often positive, and that may be one reason why his works have seldom been produced since then.

He composed his first opera, Sabina, in 1897. Between then and the premiere of Murder in the Cathedral (Assassinio nella Cattedrale) on March 1, 1958, he completed eleven others. Murder in the Cathedral is two-act opera with a libretto by the composer based on Alberto Castelli’s Italian translation of T.S. Eliot's play of the same name. It deals with the killing of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket by followers of King Henry II in the twelfth century. Henry is supposed to have asked if no one would rid him of the troublesome priest. That may have been all that was necessary for his followers to assume they had reason to murder Becket.

On April 2, 2013, San Diego Opera staged Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral with leading Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role. General and Artistic Director Ian D. Campbell staged the work in a straightforward manner that made the story easy to grasp. Ralph Funicello’s unit set, consisting of bright colored stained glass windows with steps and platforms, looked like the inside of a great cathedral. Lighting was a large part of the décor and Alan Burrett’s designs were most effective. Costume designer Denitza Bliznakova dressed the Archbishop in the timeless robes of the Catholic Church, the First and Second Chorus soloists in crimson, and the remaining choristers in the muted colors of twelfth century England.

MIC_0026a.pngSusan Neves (in red) as the First Chorus

The story of this opera, the conflict between Church and state, seems to have gone on forever. I was reminded of the murder of Martin Luther King so many centuries later. Like Becket, King knew that it could happen. Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto excels in the interpretation of roles on both sides of this conflict: Philip II in Don Carlo and Becket. Murder in the Cathedral is a thinking person’s opera. Furlanetto is in the prime of his career and his opulent voice flowed over the orchestra and into the auditorium like a magnificent force of nature. This is an opera he was born to sing. He is also a fine actor and when he was on stage you could not take your eyes off him.

Susan Neves and Helene Schneiderman sang the First and Second Chorus who commented on action. Since there was no love interest, their parts were much smaller than that of the Archbishop, but both sang with ringing tones. The other star of this performance was the San Diego Opera Chorus led by Charles F. Prestinari. Their harmonies were strong and they coalesced as a group. They really did not get to act as individuals because they were a unified congregation. For the finale they were joined by the excellent Children’s Chorus fro St. Paul’s Cathedral.

MIC_0739a.pngHelene Schneiderman as the Second Chorus with Susan Neves as the First Chorus in the background

Alan Glassman was the trumpet voiced Herald who announced each arrival. His presence in the part was true luxury casting. The other roles were actually parts of trios or quartets. The three priests who sang with dramatics tones as they tried to protect their Archbishop were tenor Greg Fedderly, bass-baritone Kristopher Irmiter, and bass Gregory Reinhart. The four tempters were also the four knights who eventually killed Becket. Tenor Joel Sorenson had a high lying difficult part but acquitted it with finesse. Baritone Malcolm MacKenzie, the smooth voiced Count Di Luna of the AZ Opera Il Trovatore, was a dramatic Second Knight, while bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam and bass Kevin Langan, the sonorous Third and Fourth Knights, were properly villainous thugs.

Conductor Donato Renetti made a very auspicious San Diego Opera debut with this performance. The large orchestra responded with precise playing of this new and interestingly orchestrated score. I hope we will hear a great deal more from Renzetti.

Special kudos go to English Hornist Andrea Overturf for his beautiful phrasing. This was a spectacular evening at San Diego Opera and I hope this fine opera will be heard more often from now on.

Maria Nockin


Click here for cast and production information.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):